We took on and won Caen Hill Locks yesterday – which was a marathon 35 in total. Once we got a system going though, draining the next one while the current lock lifted up 15 tonnes of boat, then we were quite quick at it. Paul and I did the initial six, then stopped to refuel ourselves with pasta – carbs are key for days like this – and then got through the first ten before our friend came to ably assist the rest…So that’s about 10% of the total locks to get to Leeds!
Doing the locks also meant – as many boating things – having a nice chat with various folks on boats, or watching. The standard passer by opening gambit is, "How long has it taken you?" And it’s tempting to say something like, "We’ve been here for three weeks…" But really it only took about 5.5 hours for all 35 locks. If only there was an Olympic event, I might be interested in them…
There is the curious sense of being on display as various strolling OAP tourists observe your lock operation. At one point, I had to ask a staring old lady several times if she could move from leaning on the gate I was opening, so she wouldn’t end up at the bottom of the lock. It’s funny how you feel a little like a museum exhibit. But I also think it’s a grand thing for us to be so engaged with a bit of our industrial and engineering history, in such a real day-to-day way.
OAP chat is also usually combined with plenty of chat about brands of canine. I particularly enjoyed a lady with a Newfoundland puppy-giant, who was having a chat with an over-confident Shitzu (how do you spell that? I’ll go phonetic, it’s funnier), slipping on his muzzle quietly: "He’s only a baby…" And the little dog would only have been a mouthful.
We did some more cruising at the top, mooring just along from a pub where we had well-earned vittals. A nice lady from a boat along the path came to talk to us about the proposed changes to British Waterways becoming a charity etc, which would mean alarming powers for them such as compulsory land orders, and eviction of liveaboards. I dearly hope the boater community can get together and make sure we’re not marginalised in the Coalition’s/Tories plans to squeeze money for the few from everything they possibly can – including the canals. They’re already here for people to enjoy, so why – as Joni put it – take paradise and put up a parking lot?